May 02, 2019 09:40 PM EST

Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew Dies at 74

Chewbacca Actor Peter Mayhew Dies at 74

Peter Mayhew, known to the world as the man behind the character of Star Wars' Chewbacca, has died at 74. The news was announced on his Twitter account today.

Mayhew portrayed Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge of the Sith (2005) and The Force Awakens (2015). His former Star Wars co-stars took to social media to express their feelings about his passing.

"Peter was a wonderful man. He was the closest any human being could be to a Wookiee: big heart, gentle nature…and I learned to always let him win. He was a good friend and I'm saddened by his passing," said George Lucas.

Mark Hamill said, "He was the gentlest of giants. A big man with an even bigger heart who never failed to make me smile & a loyal friend who I loved dearly. I'm grateful for the memories we shared & I'm a better man for just having known him. Thanks Pete." 

"Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character. These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience. Chewbacca was an important part of the success of the films we made together. He knew how important the fans of the franchise were to its continued success and he was devoted to them. I and millions of others will never forget Peter and what he gave us all. My thoughts are with his dear wife Angie and his children. Rest easy, my dear friend," said Harrison Ford.

Higher-ups from Disney, who now owns Star Wars, also commented about Mayhew. Bob Iger commented on Twitter, saying, "Peter was larger than life in so many ways … a gentle giant playing a gentle giant. Rest in peace." 

Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy said, "We are deeply saddened today by the news of Peter Mayhew's passing. Since 1976, Peter's iconic portrayal of the loyal, lovable Chewbacca has been absolutely integral to the character's success, and to the Star Wars saga itself. When I first met Peter during The Force Awakens, I was immediately impressed by his kind and gentle nature. Peter was brilliantly able to express his personality through his skillful use of gesture, posture, and eyes. We all love Chewie, and have Peter to thank for that enduring memory."

Mayhew is survived by his wife and Angie and three children. A private memorial will take place on June 29.
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